Garrison Commander Col. Glenn Moore said the $88 million project would replace a plant that has served since 1941 — when Camp Polk first came into existence.

FORT POLK — With the toss of shovels full of dirt at the South Fort Wastewater Treatment Plant April 16, ground was broken on a new facility that will serve Fort Polk for the next 50 years and help protect the environment.

“This is an exciting day at Fort Polk,” Garrison Commander Col. Glenn Moore said. “This facility is long overdue and extremely important for Fort Polk and the mission at the Joint Readiness Training Center.”

Moore said the $88 million project would replace a plant that has served since 1941 — when Camp Polk first came into existence.

“Today we are celebrating the start of construction of a new facility that will be capable of properly treating wastewater and protecting its receiving stream from adverse impacts,” he said. “This new plant will be capacity-flexible in terms of the amount of flow needing treatment without any diminishment in treatment effectiveness.”

Moore said the plant’s footprint will be reduced and, the discharge point will be within short walking distance for observation and chemical testing.

“Most importantly, this new plant will play an important role in demonstrating the long-term value of Fort Polk to this nation,” he said. “For the first time in the history of this military post, this wastewater treatment plant will assume the role of a valued asset; it will contribute to and influence the future in a positive way, supportive of whatever military mission it will be called upon to serve. It’s time to modernize and it’s what our community needs. Thanks to all who made sure this happened for our Soldiers and the Fort Polk Family.”

Ed Ducote, chief, Operations and Maintenance Division of Fort Polk’s Directorate of Public Works, said the facility will be state-of-the-art.

“It’s not a shiny new building, but if you’re on Fort Polk, I guarantee something from you will wind up here,” he said. “I believe it (the new facility) will help ensure Fort Polk is a premiere training location for the future.”

American Water has a 50-year contract to operate the new facility. James Sheridan, president of American Water’s Military Service Group, said it took a lot of effort to reach the groundbreaking stage.

“I want to thank those responsible for getting us to this point, including the folks at DPW (Fort Polk’s Directorate of Public Works) and MWH (MWH Global, the general contractor who will oversee construction),” Sheridan said.

He said there are usually five phases for projects of this scope:

• “This will never happen” — usually the longest. Takes visionaries to complete.

• “This has to happen, but how do we pay for it” — Takes a lot of people working together.

• “Now that we have a budget and finish date, we better get ceremonial shovels” — What occurred at the April 16 ceremony.

• “When will they stop talking” — Sheridan said that would start immediately with digging and dust raised by MWH Global. He pointed out that MWH is ranked No. 1 in wastewater treatment in the U.S. Sheridan pointed out that this phase includes a sub-phase — the “Oops” phase — when Murphy’s Law says, “Gotcha.”

• “Let’s trade in shovels for shiny scissors.”

“I hope to be back here with you in a couple of years when we cut the ribbon on the new facility,” he said. “My one wish is that by the time we cut the ribbon, all of our expectations are met and everyone goes home every day safe.”

Staci Daniels, chief wastewater operator for American Water’s Fort Polk plants, said several upgrades have been made throughout the years to keep the facility in compliance with Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. He said the South Fort plant will increase its capacity from 3.8 million gallons per day of wastewater to 4.6 million gallons. The North Fort plant will be capable of treating 1.7 million gallons per day as opposed to its current 1.4 million.

“With the increased capacity, it should fulfill the installation’s needs for the next 50 years,” he said. “Also, the local environment and the waters receiving flow from these new plants will reap the benefits of improved treatment and higher quality effluent (liquid waste discharged into a body of water).”